Skip to main content

Tackle dependency, visibility, and availability to address rapid rise in youth vaping, say public health experts

Published: 18 April 2024

Support should be prioritised over punishment when helping young people who want to quit vaping, according to public health experts. 

The recommendation is just one of the best practices identified by the Incident Response Group (IRG)* convened by Public Health Wales to investigate the concerning rise in vaping among children and young people. Other recommendations include policy measures to restrict vape visibility, appeal and availability to young people, such as a ban on disposable devices, the introduction of plain packaging, and restrictions on vape flavour names. 

In its final report published today, the IRG recommends that vaping should be regarded as a dependency issue, rather than an act of deliberate misconduct and support services should reflect that. In addition to this, the IRG also recommends that young people who have a particular need in relation to their dependency should be given access to nicotine replacement therapies (NRT). Replacement therapies are already available for anyone over 12 who is smoking. NRTs may include chewing gum, skin patches, or inhalators. 

The IRG makes further recommendations for policy control measures to restrict vape visibility, appeal and availability to children and young people:  

  • Denormalise vaping - Vaping should not be permitted in spaces that are intended primarily for children and young people. This should be done by encouraging settings working with young people to develop vape free policies. 

  • Packaging and display - Restricting the advertising, packaging and the display of vapes is likely to be one of the most effective measures to address vaping among children and young people in Wales. 

  • Disposables - The sale and supply of disposable (single use) devices should be banned. 

  • Flavours - Flavour names should be legally restricted to a specified list of basic descriptors such as tobacco, mint, menthol and fruit. 

Consultant in Public Health for Public Health Wales, Chris Emmerson, said: “These best practices provide a comprehensive framework for supporting young vapers in Wales. By implementing these practices, we can better address the complex needs of children and young people struggling with vaping dependency. Nicotine replacement therapies, which are already offered to people aged over 12 who are smoking, is one tool that could help children and young people out of their dependency on vaping in tandem with other support mechanisms. 

“In a short time, the Incident Response Group has delivered vital insight into the problem of youth vaping in Wales. A clear consensus view that the rise in youth vaping must be addressed with urgency has emerged, and it is by continuing to work together that we stand the best chance of tackling the issue quickly and effectively.”